2020 and the Covid-19 pandemic have created challenges which many businesses could never have foreseen. Despite our 26 year history, this year has thrown us a unique set of circumstances which have prompted the need to adapt accordingly. In weathering the storm we have experienced a range of situations (and emotions!) which have contributed to our strategic decisions and day-to-day operations. So, in a fairly brief overview, here’s how 2020 has shaped up for the Thesis team.
Our LimbO products are the cornerstone of our operations and activities. The need to use a LimbO waterproof protector is usually due to an accident, most often breaking a bone, or after elective surgery as part of post-operative recovery. These situations have reduced dramatically over the last four months – as people stayed home and surgeries were cancelled, taking its toll on sales. Added to this was the fact that Neocape, our barbering and stylist cape, was in low demand, given the closure of close contact services including hair salons. Furthermore our strong ties with NHS clinicians and care teams have taken a back seat as health priorities changed almost overnight. We also made the decision to delay the launch of two new products – our CombiPod, which was entering clinical trials, and the LimbO foot model, which was set to go on prescription.
As a result, we decided to use the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and furlough 70% of the Thesis team. This felt like the best option to retain jobs in the long term and our well-established sales history meant we felt confident of a future once the lockdown period was over. Ultimately, the need to manufacture both our LimbO and Neocape products drastically reduced overnight and we were confident that a smaller production team, supported with good stockroom quantities, could meet all requirements in the initial period of lockdown. During the early lockdown weeks we retained a small workforce working from home, together with a handful of factory-based staff. We quickly introduced enhanced safety measures and social distancing, aided by the fact that our Bosham factory is located in a very rural area with lots of space and fresh air.
Our family focused culture enables us to support employees across a range of circumstances – including those furloughed, shielding and recently bereaved - along with parents faced with the prospect of home schooling their children. As we bring the team back to the factory post-furlough, we are considering other ways of flexible working to help maintain social distancing and guide us all safely through the winter months.
We felt strongly about playing our part in the national effort against coronavirus, despite reduced resources and our own business survival priorities to consider. Using our business connections, we were able to quickly establish a collaboration with A.L.P Europe, a Birmingham based lighting manufacturer, to produce PPE visors. This partnership saw us donating neoprene to use for cushioning in their visors, which were then supplied to the NHS.
During a normal year our sales team attend a large number of conferences, events and study days. These have all, of course, been postponed or cancelled, so we have moved into new ways of working and promoting our products, through virtual conferences and Zoom meetings etc., allowing us to continue to develop strong relationships with health care professionals, distributors and other customers. We have also linked up with key professional associations and patient groups to provide more support online; for example the Tissue Viability Society is encouraging patients at home to manage more self-care and offer signposts to solutions, including LimbO, to support this.
Thankfully, some business plans continued apace. Our new LimbO website was successfully launched in June and, given a greater reliance on ecommerce compared to pre-lockdown, has already proved an invaluable addition to our sales and marketing operations.
As lockdowns have eased across the world, we have been able to gear back up quickly. In recent weeks we have received sizeable LimbO export orders coming from Europe (including Italy and Spain), the USA and Japan. This is encouraging news from those countries that have been hit hard and who continue to struggle with local lockdowns and the threat of a second wave. Furthermore, the Neocape team have been able to adapt well, with orders picking up as barber shops and salons re-opened across the UK. To support our customers in this area, we have added face coverings to our range, for use by salon staff and their customers.
In summary we are pleased to see signs that our business landscape is recovering and that there is a bright outlook ahead. We are also confident that the key changes we have put in place, together with a cautiously optimistic approach, will help us continue to weather the storm.